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7/12/2017 by mdc
https://www.space.com/34077-china-launches-tiangong-2-space-lab.html
Mike Wall reports that China has launched its second-ever space lab, a key part of the national plan to have a permanently staffed space station up and running by the early 2020s. The uncrewed Tiangong-2 spacecraft lifted off today from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, riding a Long March-2F T2 rocket to orbit.

If all goes according to plan, the 9.5-ton (8.6 metric tons) Tiangong-2, whose name translates as Heavenly Palace in Mandarin, will soon settle into an orbit about 236 miles above Earth and perform a series of initial tests and checkouts, according to China state-run Xinhua news agency. The space lab will then climb to an altitude of 244 miles, the same height at which China future space station will operate, and await an October visit from two Chinese astronauts aboard a vessel called Shenzhou-11.

Tiangong-1 ended its operational life in March of this year and will likely fall back to Earth in the second half of 2017, Chinese officials have said. It served primarily to prove out space-docking technologies. Tiangong-2 features improved living quarters and life-support infrastructure, facilitating longer stays by visiting crewmembers, Xinhua reported.

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